There’s no rule that songwriters must write about themselves or even people they know. In fact, fictional character as song protagonist is a common trick. Some artists are masters at this (The Beatles chief among them), crafting characters with every album. While the list is virtually endless, here are five of the most memorable fictional characters immortalized in music. Add your own in the comments!
1.The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
Released from the album of the same name, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was the alter-ego of the Fab Four, festooned in those bright, satin military jackets that later became iconic. The result was one of the most important albums of all-time, but Sgt. Pepper’s is far from the Beatles’ only fictional characters. From Eleanor Rigby and Rocky Raccoon to Loretta Martin (“Get Back”) and Desmond Jones (“Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da”), The Beatles were perhaps the band that created fictional characters most often in songs.
2. David Bowie’s Major Tom
Heard in the songs “Space Oddity” and “Ashes To Ashes,” Major Tom is an out-of-this-world fictional character Bowie created in the late ’60s and continued through his career. Major Tom was an astronaut and a junkie (as heard in “Ashes to Ashes”), and became a part of pop culture with various artists paying tribute to the character, including Peter Schilling in his 1983 hit “Major Tom (Coming Home).”
3. Simon & Garfunkel ‘s Mrs. Robinson
After trying to seduce Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate, Mrs. Robinson (as played by Anne Bancroft in the film) made young men’s fantasies come true. Not only did Bancroft’s Mrs. Robinson make her a sex symbol, she was ahead of her time on the cougar trend.
4. Elton John’s Daniel
Bernie Taupin, John’s longtime lyricist, has said that “Daniel” is among one of the most misunderstood songs he’s written with Elton. Taupin created the character of blinded veteran Daniel, who just wants to return home to normalcy after the war, as a commentary on the Vietnam War.
5. Isaac Hayes’ Shaft
The theme for 1971’s Shaft film, this No.1 hit about the suave, no-nonsense private detective earned Hayes an Academy Award for Best Original Song. It made him the first African American to win the award, plus the first songwriter to both write and perform the song to win. That, we can dig.
– Britt Bickel & Jillian Mapes, CBS Local